It’s Time to have that Conversation

Will MullinMay 1, 2020

COVID-19 Related Information

As my wife and I walked around the neighborhood talking about the latest news and the new impending norm in everyone’s future, we marveled at how quickly changes were coming. It started with the school district confirming it would be virtual the rest of the school year and was followed by wedding cancellations and rescheduled summer graduation party dates. The dominos kept rolling. And then the conversation started to get a little more serious.  It was the end of the month, and bills were going to need to be paid. My wife looked at me saying “If something happened to you, I am in trouble”.

I quickly replied: “No, we have a plan. I have taken care of everything, and we are prepared.” Perplexed, she said, “You don’t get it, I’m not.”  Then, what seemed like about another mile of walking turned into a mental marathon. My brain could not stop racing. This is what I do for a living, it’s my passion, and I have taken care of everything. Several years back, I merged our company to protect my family and clients in case of an early passing. We updated our wills, got new insurance, trusts and “cleaned everything up.” What could she be talking about?  So, the next day on our walk, I asked her: “What did you mean when you said you would be in trouble?”

Her answer was very simple, very enlightening.  Where is everything, and where would I start?  Only then did I finally get it.  For years, my wife has been the one who runs our household. Three kids, three schools, sports, activities and hours in the car all managed masterfully by her and her schedules.  I take care of the finances and all the business side of things while she handles the day to day of our household.  But I was missing the very heart of our company’s Vision statement that makes what we do so important.  We bridge the gap. We strive to be our clients’ first call in a time of need.  Yet my wife was asking for a simple roadmap and link to all that “planning” we had taken care of; now I understood. When you ask someone to change jobs or take on another responsibility, start from the beginning and keep it simple.

So, the next day, I got up and started writing lists of all the things that could help my wife in time of need if she ever had to take over my responsibilities. I sat down and recorded the names and phones numbers of the first people to call and noted how they could help her. My list included the web site and login credentials of the sites we use for our planning, the storage locations of copies of our wills, tax returns and insurance policies.  She might know that we have them, but where could she access the policy numbers info? (More importantly, does she have her own logins, passwords, and proper access to the sites?) I resolved she would.

Since most of our bills are paid electronically, I made sure she had her own proper access to the accounts, wrote down the login credentials and included the dates and accounts for each item. (She had access to most of this data, but did she have everything, and could she do what I do upon her access?) I marked down where to find the keys to the safe, all the combinations, keys and access to entities we use on an everyday basis yet take for granted.

As financial planners, we work each day to help our clients arrive at a good financial plan that will bring them to their dreams and goals.  We also assist them with the risk management side of finances to protect them from potential risks.  However, what I learned on that far-sighted walk is that now is the time to have the conversation with your spouse and loved ones that will set them up for success. Listen to their concerns. Make sure they know all the little things are taken care of, as well.

As always, if you have any questions or you would like some guidance as you prepare to have the conversation with your spouse, please reach out to your advisors or a member of the HFA team.